Accused Juliet Ngo Fiel (Fiel) and Gervacia Condes Sta. Maria (Sta. Maria) are charged with the complex crime of malversation of public funds through falsification of public document under Article 217 in relation to Articles 171(2) and 48 of the Revised Penal Code in an Information which reads:
The undersigned Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer I of the Office of the Ombudsman accuses JULIET NGO FIEL and GERVACIA C. STA. MARIA of Malversation of Public Funds through Falsification of Public Document, defined and penalized under Article 217, in relation with Articles 48 and 171 of the Revised Penal Code, committed as follows:
That in December 2009 or sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in the Municipality of Looc, Romblon, Philippines and within the Honorable Court’s jurisdiction, the above-named accused JULIET NGO FIEL, Municipal Mayor of the Municipality of Looc, Romblon (SG27), a high ranking public official, who by reason of her office, is accountable for public funds, committing the complex crime charged herein while in the performance of, in relation to and/or taking advantage of her official position and function as such, conspiring and confederating with GERVACIA CONDES STA. MARIA, Administrative Aide VI2 (SG6), did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously consent to the taking or misappropriation of public funds of the Municipality of Looc, Romblon under her charge and custody in the amount of One Thousand Two Hundred Fifty Pesos (Phpl,250.00) constituting the wages of one Domingo Docog (Docog), by means of approving and attesting in the Payroll for the repair of the Mayor’s office that the persons whose names appear therein had rendered services for the time stated, when in truth and in fact, Docog neither rendered services therefor nor signed said Payroll evidencing receipt of the said sum of money or any part thereof, to the damage and prejudice of the Municipality of Looc, Romblon in the aforestated amount
CONTRARY TO LAW.3
In its Resolution promulgated on September 16, 2016, the Court found the existence of probable cause against accused Fiel and Sta. Maria after a careful evaluation of the records of this case. Thus, it issued warrants of arrest and hold departure orders against them.4
On September 22, 2016, accused Fiel, through counsel, filed an “Appearance/ Motion to Determine Probable Cause in the above-entitled case and Motion to Suspend Issuance of Warrant of Arrest ”5
The prosecution filed its “Comment and/or Opposition (To Accused Juliet Ngo Fiel’s Appearance/ Motion to Determine Probable Cause in the above-entitled case and Motion to Suspend Issuance of Warrant of Arrest dated 20 September 2016)” on September 28, 2016.6
In its Resolution promulgated on October 28, 2016, the Court maintained its finding of probable cause in this case and denied the aforesaid motion filed by accused Fiel.7
Meantime, accused Fiel posted her cash bail bond for her provisional liberty in connection with the present case on September 26, 2016.8
Subsequently, in its Resolution promulgated on November 21, 2016, the Court noted the letter dated October 12, 2016, of Beethoven M. Ablan, Clerk of Court IV of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 81 of the Municipality of Romblon, Province of Romblon regarding the bail bond posted by accused Sta. Maria before the said RTC.9
During the scheduled arraignment of accused Fiel on November 24, 2016, Atty. Isabelo G. Tomas, counsel for accused Sta. Maria, moved that his client be arraigned as well. The prosecution interposed no objection thereto. Thus, the Court granted the said motion. Accused Fiel and Sta. Maria, assisted by their respective counsel, were consequently arraigned. Both accused entered separate pleas of “not guilty.”10
The Court set the preliminary conference in this case on February 14, 15 and 22, 2017 and the pre-trial on March 9, 2017.11
The prosecution filed its pre-trial brief on February 8, 2017,12 which was admitted by the Court in its Resolution promulgated on February 9, 2017.13 Accused Fiel filed her pre-trial brief on February 14, 2017, which was likewise admitted by the Court in its Resolution of even date.14 On March 9, 2017, accused Sta. Maria filed her pre-trial brief which was also admitted by the Court in its Resolution promulgated on the same day.15
During the pre-trial, the parties stipulated on the following
1. Accused Juliet Ngo Fiel and Gervacia Condes Sta. Maria are the same persons charged in, and arraigned, under the Information [in this case].
2. During the time material to this case, accused Fiel and Sta. Maria were both public officers, being [then] the Mayor and Administrative Aide IV/ Disbursing Officer, respectively, of the Municipality of Looc, Romblon.
3. The Municipality of Looc, Romblon hired several job order employees for the period covering 22-31 December 2009 for the purpose of undertaking repairs in the Mayor’s Office. Accused Fiel made a counter-stipulation that the hiring was done through Municipal Engineer Renato S. Saludaga.
4. A Daily Wage Payroll for the period covering 22-31 December 2009 was prepared for the payment of wages of the job order employees for the repair of the Mayor’s Office. Accused Fiel made a counterstipulation that the said payroll was prepared by Municipal Engineer Renato S. Saludaga.16
The prosecution presented the following witnesses:  Ernesto Pedroso Panes,17  April Joy Yap Galiga,18  Domingo Derilo Docog,19  Ben Mandinguiado Domingo,20  Sheela Galindez Mihon,21 and  Ronnie Villanueva Francisco.22 They all gave their direct testimonies through their respective judicial affidavits.
On October 12, 2017, the prosecution filed its formal offer of evidence consisting of Exhibits “A” to “H-1,” together with its submarkings.23 The same were admitted by the Court in its Resolution promulgated on October 20, 2017.24
1 Sitting as a special member of the Third Division per Administrative Order No. 262-2018 dated April 30, 2018
2 Per accused Sta, Maria's Pre-Trial Brief dated March 9, 2017 and the Pre-Trial Order issued by the Court on April 26, 2017, accused Sta. Maria occupied the position of Administrative Aide IV.
3 pp. 1-2, Record; In its Order da ted October 25, 2016, the body of the Information in this case was amended by replacing the "Municipality ofBarlig, Mountain Province" to "Municipality of Looc, Romblon."
4 p. 44, Id
5 pp. 47-66, Id
6 pp. 75-80, Id
7 pp. 105-109, Id
8 p. 70, Id
9 p. 125, Id
10 p. 130, Id
11 p. 133, Id
12 pp. 149-152, Id
13 p. 153, Id
14 p. 166, Id
15 p. 194, Id
16 pp. 236-237, Id
17 pp. 244-277, Id; filed on May 8, 2017
18 pp. 278-29, Id; filed on May 8, 2017
19 pp. 328-345, Id; filed on July 5, 2017
20 pp. 346-360, Id; filed on July 5, 2017
21 pp. 374-381, Id; filed on August 10, 2017
22 pp. 402-413, Id; filed on October 13, 2017
23 pp. 417-422, Id
24 p. 457, Id